Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Newborn care still a concern

Newborn care still a concern

A mother holds her infant child as she waits to see a doctor outside Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital last year.
A mother holds her infant child as she waits to see a doctor outside Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital last year. Hong Menea

Newborn care still a concern

Although infant mortality rates have dropped dramatically over the past 15 years, a new report in the journal Healthcare has identified significant shortcomings in newborn care in Cambodia.

After interviewing mothers, caretakers and midwives in charge of delivering and caring for newborn babies in Takeo province, the study’s authors documented numerous cases where basic hygiene practises were neglected.

They also noted that many mothers lack adequate information about how to breastfeed, check their baby’s breathing and temperature, and identify common illnesses such as infection.

“The current study highlighted many gaps in practices in these areas that may impact on newborn survival, growth and development,” wrote the report’s authors.

As Cambodia worked to reduce the rates of maternal and infant mortality, delivery moved away from the home and into health care centres, the report’s authors noted.

According to UNICEF, Cambodia’s under-5 mortality rate fell from 124 to 35 in every 1,000 live births between 2000 and 2014. This was in large part due to the higher percentage of babies delivered by midwives in health centres.

Nevertheless, some parts of the country are “still lagging behind” due to poor-quality health services, UNICEF noted in a statement.

For example, the study found that newborns are often cleaned and dried with sarongs brought from home, and then wrapped in the same wet, dirty sarongs. Most facilities lacked clean linen for cleaning and drying newborns.

Many health centres were also missing waste receptacles and hand-washing stations, and waste receptacles were often dirty and overflowing when they were available. Latrines were equally dirty and lacked hand-washing facilities.

Meanwhile, many midwives reported a lack of clean medical gloves, and often used the same gloves throughout delivery and post-partum care. Areas where mothers slept were almost never cleaned by health centre staff, and sleeping mats and bed covers were reused.

Once at home, families from across the socio-economic spectrum lacked information about how to care for newborns, especially ones with special needs.

“I did not think there was any special care for smaller babies versus normal babies, I only just did whatever came to my mind to care for the baby,” said the father of one underweight baby.

Material from insect nests was often applied to babies’ umbilical cords until they fell off. “I advise [parents] not to put anything on the cord except for betadine … But other than that, I don’t really advise them on how to take care of the newborn,” said one 24-year-old midwife.

According to Abigail Beeson, a health specialist with Save the Children Cambodia, further education is needed so that community members understand the importance of a baby’s first days.

“Overall infant mortality rates have been dropping, but a majority of deaths still take place in the first three days of life,” Beeson said.

“The government has revised some policies that put a greater emphasis on post-natal care so that babies get adequate care in the first 28 days, but we still see a lack of understanding from community members about the importance of some of these.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Bosba: The first Khmer woman composer from UK’s Cambridge

    Bosba Panh is just 25 years old, but she’s already accomplished some impressive milestones for herself and the Kingdom. On July 24, she graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge as the first Khmer woman composer and Khmer music graduate ever at

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway